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Short version: I need tips to prevent my dog from digging out of the dog run, and also things to help keep her calm and get her desensitized to it so I can use it.

I got a dog run in the backyard a few weeks ago as occasionally we're gone 6+ hours and I don't like leaving the girls crated for so long. They share a crate and fit nicely, but when we're gone for more than a few hours I thought it would be nice to let them have an outdoor space. A note about the crate, Kaytu is fine as long as Denali is in the crate with her. If it's just her, she freaks out and has busted out of it (it's a wire crate). Kaytu, adopted 4 months ago, is a master escape artist, which is why I got the run as I can't leave her unattended in the yard. She WILL escape. Denali would be fine, Kaytu we would probably never see again. They haven't been left alone in the run for longer than ~20 minutes while my husband and I were inside and Kaytu climbed out, so I know I need a top on it.

The kennel is 10ft by 6ft and is 6ft tall, made of chainlink. I know she can climb chainlink so I will soon be getting chickenwire or something similar over the top of it. She will also try to dig out and that's where I'm having more trouble determining a solution. I've thought about putting a layer of lava rock around it so it won't be nice for her paws to try to dig through- but if she gets determined the pain won't stop her and I'll have an injured dog along with the holes, and she might get out. Any other tips for preventing her from digging? I know it's one of those things that takes a lot of supervision and maintenance at first.


Today I left her alone in the run, brought Denali inside, and set up the camera to record her. It took 8 and a half minutes before she started getting really concerned. She pushed her nose along the bottom to test the chainlink. She started digging a hole under the fence. She was whining a little but not much. I was checking on her secretly every few minutes to make sure she wasn't hurting herself or really freaking out.

She was outside for ~35 minutes with me sneaking a peek every few minutes. The hole she started ended up only a couple inches deep. She didn't whine or howl too much but was very restless. She would stand up on the chainlink and a couple times made little half-hearted hops. By the end she was starting to mouth the gate and the wires and chew on the metal clips. So we're clear, the point of doing this with her was to see her habits, what we can work on, how long it takes her to stress, and to help me be able to help her be comfortable out there.


I really need things to keep her busy. First, I wouldn't plan on leaving them out there until they've first been exercised (3 mile bike ride + an hour at the dog park would be typical). I have bully sticks but they are chewed through in about 20 minutes. I have also done stuffed and frozen Kongs which are a big hit and take about an hour or so for her to lick clean. I'll be combining them to try a stuffed Kong with a bully stick stuck down the middle then frozen. I've also been feeding them in the run and sticking them in for short amounts of time by themselves, when I'm able to peek in on them every few minutes. Any other things I can try with keeping her busy and getting her used to being out there?
 

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I've been mulling this over for a couple hours now and have thought of a couple things.

1. Horse stall matts. Kinda defeats the purpose of having a kennel on the grass outside but one large one to go under the whole kennel could limit her ability to dig. But, this might be expensive too. I can't imagine horse stall matts are all that cheap.

2. Hot wire run alongside the edge, near the bottom of the kennel. I don't know how comfortable you are with that or how feasible it would be because it's so low, but that's another option.

3. Cement blocks half buried along the perimeter of the kennel. I don't know if it would keep her in for too long, but it might deter her for a little while

4. Have more fun stuff to do inside the kennel. I don't know if they are ok with food with one another, but you could go in there and hide treats everywhere then let them in. They will be busy (hopefully) finding treats, eating their kongs, finding fun stuff to play with (new toys they only get in the kennel?), treat dispensing toys, etc.

5. Dig up the perimeter of the kennel and bury chicken wire around it. If she digs out, she will just hit chicken wire.

6. Maybe some sort of e-fence buried outside the kennel? If her head goes past where the e-fence is she gets zapped? Kinda like hotwire but less in the way, but she would have to wear the collar

I don't know how comfortable you are with some of these options but without burying something underneath the kennel where she's digging I can't think of a lot.

For the top, if you don't want to get a whole top you could try the "rolling pin" method: http://www.huskycamp.com/security.htm



Edit:
As far as desentising, I assume it would be the same as desentising to a crate. Leave them out there for 5 minutes, check on them and let them out for a little. Throw a ball, dance around, play tug, etc. Put them back in, give them a treat, and try and do it for 10 minutes. Then just build up time.

You could almost treat them like zoo animals too and give them some kind of new, fun daily enrichment in there. Or like how they do for wolves at the sanctuaries. Like rub a dead fish around the kennel, smear yogurt or peanut around the chain link/kennel, bury small treats, buy animal scents from hunting stores, if its big enough put in a big tube like they use for sled dogs to play in, freeze some food in a giant ice block and give them that to work on, hang some meat/food from a rope, hide some eggs in there for them to eat, go to a farm and get some hair from a llama or sheep or something and hide that around the kennel, buy rabbit skin to hide, etc. Not sure if that stuff would work for long, but I think adding variety and making it fun and exciting would be cool. If it works for the animals in zoos I don't see why it wouldn't work for some domestic dogs.
 
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